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Northern Michigan tops Lake Superior State to move within a win of home ice in CCHA playoffs

Loss would send Wildcats packing in second round

February 25, 2012
By MATT WELLENS - Journal Sports Editor ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, Northern Michigan University redshirt freshman Reed Seckel was without a goal since Feb. 4 - a loss at home to Ferris State.

Wildcat senior Tyler Gron scored his last goal the day before in a tie with the Bulldogs in Marquette.

Junior forward Matt Thurber had the longest drought among his linemates - eight games - with his last goal coming in a Jan. 21 win at Michigan Tech.

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On Friday, those dry spells were washed away in convincing fashion.

"We were trying to do too much on our own," Thurber said. "That's tough to do in a league like this. We have to stay together, us three. If we do that, like we did tonight, we'll get our opportunities and we'll score."

Northern opened up the floodgates and drowned the Lake Superior State Lakers for a 6-2 CCHA victory in Game 3 of the Father Cappo Cup series between the Upper Peninsula rivals at the Berry Events Center.

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Northern Michigan University's Wade Epp, 27, tries to keep the puck away from Lake Superior State University's Kellan Lain, 19, during the first period of CCHA play on Friday at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)

Three of the Wildcat's six goals came from the second-line trio, who together combined for three goals and three assists.

For Gron, it was the perfect time for his line to find its scoring touch with Northern's backs against the wall.

"It got to a point where pucks were going in when we didn't deserve them," Gron said. "We were having bad games, but still getting 2-3 point nights as a line. I think we got away from what it actually takes to put pucks in the net at this level. I think we got it back tonight. It feels good. It's at the right time. We have to start scoring goals for the playoffs."

The victory moved NMU into a three-way tie for seventh place in the CCHA with Notre Dame and Ohio State, however, the Irish with 12 league wins and Ohio State with 10 would finish ahead of the Wildcats (15-12-6 overall, 10-11-6 in CCHA) - all three have 39 league points.

Northern can clinch home ice in the first round of the CCHA playoffs with a victory over LSSU, which held onto sixth place at 41 points. The Lakers can fall as low as ninth with a loss and victories Saturday by OSU and Notre Dame.

NMU, which is 9-2-5 at the BEC this season, can also clinch home ice in the first round by simply taking more league points than Ohio State and Notre Dame on Saturday, however, a loss would put NMU on the road next weekend.

The 'Cats are 6-10-1 away from Marquette in 2011-12.

"Our record at home is a lot better than it is on the road so we want as many games at home as we can. A win tomorrow would secure that for us," Gron said.

"As good as we were tonight, I think we'll be better tomorrow night. It's hard to look at the big picture with two games, but with one game, 60 minutes is all we have to get the job done."

The 'Cats, now with a 2-1 series lead and 11-9 goal advantage in the Cappo Cup series, picked up three goals in the second period from Gron, senior Justin Florek of Marquette and sophomore Stephan Vigier to take command.

Florek and Vigier's goals came during a five-minute LSSU major penalty that was awarded to Lakers sophomore forward Kyle Jean for facemasking. He also received a game disqualification, leaving him in the stands for Saturday's 7:35 p.m. rematch on Northern's Senior Night.

Jean's facemask came during a scuffle with Seckel, but the Wildcat only received a double minor for cross checking and roughing after the whistle in the aftermath.

While Seckel sat in the box and Jean sat in the locker room, Florek scored his team-high 17th goal of the season just over a minute into the 4-on-4 action. Vigier then lit the lamp a fourth time for Northern after LSSU sophomore Kellan Lain put his team down to three skaters via goaltender interference.

LSSU head coach Jim Roque called Jean's major the penalty the turning point of the game, but he had no beef with the refs for making the call.

Roque disappointment afterwards was directed squarely at his own player.

"Like all these games, I think they come down to a play," Roque said. "My guy lost his discipline, grabbed a guy by the mask and all of a sudden we went from a four-minute power play to having a five-minute major and having a guy out of the game. It changes the game totally. It was 2-1 at the time. We have to have better discipline than that."

Seckel gave Northern a 1-0 lead in the first period before Jean tied the game with 2:56 to play before the first intermission.

NMU piled on in the third period with Thurber - who blocked a shot Friday on the penalty kill without his stick or one glove - scoring on a shorthanded breakaway and Andrew Cherniwchan tipping a blast by sophomore defenseman C.J. Ludwig into the back of the Lakers' net with 5:32 to play.

Florek and Thurber each finished with a goal and two assists, Gron had a goal and an assist while junior defenseman Scott Macaulay, Cherniwchan, freshman defenseman Jake Baker, Ludwig, sophomore defenseman Wade Epp and freshman defenseman Mitch Jones all had assists.

"I thought we were very opportunistic," NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. "We needed to be. We had some guys who had some good offensive efforts and able to put some pucks away at the right time."

Notes: NMU sophomore netminder Jared Coreau made 26 saves in his final regular season start. Senior Reid Ellingson will start in net tonight. ... LSSU sophomore goalie Kevin Kapalka was credited with 18. ... In the opening series of the season between the two U.P. school in Sault Ste. Marie, NMU won 2-1 on Friday before losing 6-3 on Saturday.



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